Zajac's OT goal lifts Devils past Canes
NORTH CAROLINA -- Travis Zajac scored at 4:58 of overtime and the New Jersey Devils beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Sunday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference playoff series.
Zach Parise scored for the third straight game and assisted on Zajac's winner, giving the Devils a 2-1 series lead and helping them bounce back from an overtime loss two nights earlier on home ice by turning the tables on the Hurricanes.
Game 4 is Tuesday night in Raleigh.
Parise started the decisive sequence by attempting to throw the puck toward Brian Rolston, but it clicked off Anton Babchuk's skate and to Zajac in the slot. Cam Ward stopped his wrist shot with his pads, but Zajac followed it by flipping it high past the Carolina goalie for his second career playoff goal.
Brian Gionta added a goal, Zajac assisted on Parise's goal, and Martin Brodeur stopped 28 shots for New Jersey, which has yet to trail in regulation in the series.
Ryan Bayda and Chad LaRose scored their first career playoff goals, and Ward finished with 32 saves for Carolina, which entered 5-0 against the Devils in overtime playoff games.
Well before neither team could manage anything during a scoreless third period, LaRose pulled the Hurricanes to 2-all after they failed to capitalize on a two-man advantage late in the second.
LaRose's goal came on a redirection one second after a power play expired, when he tipped Patrick Eaves' shot from the left circle past Brodeur with 4:30 left. That goal came after the Devils killed off both a 52-second 5-on-3 situation and the 1:08 of single-man advantage that followed for Carolina.
Before that, though, New Jersey was in control throughout the second period - mainly because Gionta had given them both the lead and a significant momentum boost when he made it 2-1 in the final seconds of the first. He intercepted Joe Corvo's clearing pass to Ward's right, watched as Ray Whitney skated past and snapped the puck past the Carolina goalie with 8.6 seconds left.
That score capped an opening 20 minutes in which New Jersey seemed to adjust quite nicely to life without captain Jamie Langenbrunner. Coach Brent Sutter was forced to juggle his lines to make up for Langenbrunner after the captain left midway through Game 2 with a lower-body injury that will keep him out for at least one more game.
Sutter played it coy with reporters after the morning skate, but wound up moving Rolston into the open spot at right wing on the Devils' No. 1 line while sliding Bobby Holik - a 16-season veteran who wasn't terribly happy about being a healthy scratch for Games 1 and 2 - back into the lineup and into the spot vacated by Rolston.
Early on - and in a bit of foreshadowing - that top line didn't appear to miss a beat.
They were undeterred while facing an amped-up crowd of Caniacs soaking up their first home playoff game since winning the seventh game of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals and looking to continue the momentum of an overtime victory two nights earlier.
Rolston and the Devils silenced them, albeit only temporarily.
Rolston delivered a key wake-up call with a behind-the-net collision moments before Paul Martin uncorked a shot that clicked off Parise and through Ward's legs with 13:25 left for his third goal of the series.
But that lead lasted all of 31 seconds, because a fortuitous Carolina misplay helped Bayda even it at 1-all. Scott Walker stopped and started behind the net before passing toward the slot to Jussi Jokinen, and when the Finn fanned on his shot, the puck went through his legs and Bayda was there to wrist it high past Brodeur.
Notes: Rolston hit the left post with a wrist shot with 6½ minutes left in regulation. ... Martin has points in all three games for New Jersey. ... Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher sounded the siren that announces the Hurricanes' pregame entrance. Cowher played at North Carolina State and lives in Raleigh. ...N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien also was in attendance. ... Carolina scratched D Dennis Seidenberg for the second straight game.
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